Thursday, October 27, 2011

I propose a toast: To experiments

The Grow Lab started by the county's Master Gardeners has a circular herb garden (PDF page 2) built out of wine bottles. When I first saw it, I thought, "Wow, I want to do that someday. Good thing I drink a lot of wine."

You'd use wine bottles as a border for a number of reasons. Long wine bottles are a good height for raised beds, and raised beds are helpful with drainage and keeping the soil warm. Bottles don't decay or wear down. Bottles are sturdy and pretty. And, also, why the heck not?

Fast forward a couple years, and I still had the inclination, finally had secured the location, but didn't have enough of the bottles for the experimentation.

I put the word out to local friends (like Leslie at Tea with Iris) that I needed their help collecting wine bottles, plus I went by a wine bistro and asked them to save a few cases for me. Soon after I had enough bottles to start my project. 

With the first batch of bottles, I scrubbed off the labels with soap, water and steel wool.

It took a long time.

I inserted the bottles neck-down into soil that I had softened up with a shovel. 

To keep the bottles in a straight line while I planted them, I used long 2-by-4s left over from a previous project.
Then I piled up soil and mulch on the outside and put my best compost and soil on the inside. The interior level is about 4 inches higher than the exterior level. 
With the second batch of bottles, I didn't take off the labels. I know, lazy.

This is also a beneficial bug experiment. To draw out the good guys, I planted sweet alyssum, lobelia, pansy, borage, viola, calendula and chamomile, plus 3 sages, 2 basils, parsley and a thyme. Here you can see a purple sage (outside) and the top of a purple sweet alyssum (inside).
Oh yeah, almost forgot! I've also got three tomatoes, brussels sprouts, pak choi and red & white onions growing. Really cannot wait to see how the colors explode here. So far everything looks super healthy.
If there is any hint of frost, I'll cover the whole thing with a large sheet/blanket using the tomato cages. (I was going to make those circular tomato houses out of chicken wire this year, but instead decided to save money and use what I have.)

So do you think it looks better with or without labels?


  1. I love this and did something in my garden years ago, though not on the same scale as you as my husband was being paranoid that someone would fall on the glass and hurt themself - of course noone ever has. To answer your question, i think its fine with the labels, with rain and soil - the labels will wear off in time, giving it a little character.

  2. Thanks for visiting! Like your husband, I was a bit concerned too about the glass. But I made the garden bed a little out of the way, so I'm pretty sure no one will fall on it.

    OK, that's good to hear about the labels. I was feeling self-conscious that I only went halfway!

  3. It looks great Renee! What a great use for wine bottles! Iris is going to have to share this on her page:)

  4. Thanks for the help! Can't wait to post an "after" picture once everything grows and flowers!

  5. Great idea! And it's pretty, too! I suppose with the sun shining on it, the glass is quite lovely?!

  6. Hi there! Thanks for visiting. Yes, it is quite pretty with the sun shining on it. And I love how water pools in the ends of the bottles. I've seen birds (and my cats) taking sips from the mini-wells.

  7. What a nice idea! Having tried to take the labels off of various bottle to use them as vases, I understand the pain! I'm sure the labels will wear off eventually anyway.
    Can't wait to see it in bloom!

  8. Hi Indie, Thanks!
    The project was half done for a week when I got the second batch of bottles (almost two sides of the bed were finished), and I really just wanted to get those new bottles in the ground. I'm interested to see how the lables will wear off. So far I have been most pleasantly surprised by how moist the soil has been in the bed.